Flat Design

Your constantly-updated definition of Flat Design and collection of topical content and literature

What is Flat Design?

Flat design is a user interface design style that uses simple, two-dimensional elements and bright colors. It is often contrasted to the skeuomorphic style that gives the illusion of three dimensions through copying real-life properties. Its popularity became prominent with the release of Windows 8, Apple’s iOS 7, and Google’s Material Design, all of which utilize flat design.

Flat design was originally developed for responsive design, where a website’s content scales smoothly depending on the device’s screen size. With the use of simple shapes and minimal textures, flat design ensures that responsive designs work well and load fast (especially important since mobile devices have slower internet speeds). By reducing the amount of visual noise (in the form of textures and shadows), flat design provides users with a streamlined and more optimal user experience.

However, despite its popularity, flat design also has drawbacks regarding the user experience. The absence of three-dimensional effects (e.g., drop shadows) takes away the cues that indicate how a user can interact with a design. For example, buttons in the flat design style do not appear distinct from other visual elements on a webpage, and therefore do not appear clickable. Because of this danger, flat design is increasingly applied in a more balanced way, often referred to as “flat design 2.0” or “almost flat design.” This trend takes the clean and simple visuals from flat design and adds some subtle skeuomorphic qualities such as color variations and shadows. With this increased depth and dimension, visual variety increases and usability improves. For instance, Google’s Material Design and Apple’s iOS interfaces heavily use shadows and/or blurring effects to make their interfaces more intuitive to use.

Literature on Flat Design

Here’s the entire UX literature on Flat Design by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Flat Design

Take a deep dive into Flat Design with our course User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide .

User experience, or UX, has been a buzzword since about 2005, and according to tech research firm Gartner, the focus on digital experience is no longer limited to digital-born companies anymore. Chances are, you’ve heard of the term, or even have it on your portfolio. But, like most of us, there’s also a good chance that you sometimes feel unsure of what the term “user experience” actually covers.

[User experience] is used by people to say, Im a user experience designer, I design websites, or I design apps. [] and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! Its everythingits the way you experience the world, its the way you experience your life, its the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But its a system thats everything.

Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term user experience”, in an interview with NNGroup

As indicated by Don Norman, User Experience is an umbrella term that covers a number of different areas. When you work with user experience, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of what those areas are so that you know what tools are available to you.

Throughout this course, you will gain a thorough understanding of the various design principles that come together to create a user’s experience when using a product or service. As you proceed, you’ll learn the value user experience design brings to a project, and what areas you must consider when you want to design great user experiences. Because user experience is an evolving term, we can’t give you a definition of ‘user experience’ to end all discussions, but we will provide you with a solid understanding of the different aspects of user experience, so it becomes clear in your mind what is involved in creating great UX designs.

If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses. This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and with a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.

All Literature

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